Friday, March 20, 2009

Global Slowdown Solutions IV: Create earnings credit will follow

Current problem won't resolve by just establishing an alternate credit channel. Once the US credit channel is available. Credit flows based on certainity of earnings. Economist's View: Galbraith: No Return to Normal indicates how Galbraith points to this critical point. Let me paraphrase Galbraith:

In other words, Roosevelt employed Americans on a vast scale, bringing the unemployment rates down to levels that were tolerable, even before the war—from 25 percent in 1933 to below 10 percent in 1936, if you count those employed by the government as employed, which they surely were. In 1937, Roosevelt tried to balance the budget, the economy relapsed again, and in 1938 the New Deal was relaunched. This again brought unemployment down to about 10 percent, still before the war.

The New Deal rebuilt America physically, providing a foundation (the TVA’s power plants, for example) from which the mobilization of World War II could be launched. But it also saved the country politically and morally, providing jobs, hope, and confidence that in the end democracy was worth preserving. There were many, in the 1930s, who did not think so.

What did not recover, under Roosevelt, was the private banking system. ... If they had savings at all, people stayed in Treasuries, and despite huge deficits interest rates for federal debt remained near zero. The liquidity trap wasn’t overcome until the war ended. It was the war, and only the war, that restored (or, more accurately, created for the first time) the financial wealth of the American middle class. ... But the relaunching of private finance took twenty years, and the war besides.

A brief reflection on this history and present circumstances drives a plain conclusion: the full restoration of private credit will take a long time. It will follow, not precede, the restoration of sound private household finances. There is no way the project of resurrecting the economy by stuffing the banks with cash will work. Effective policy can only work the other way around.

We have to realised that credit and banking feeds off global real economy. It is actually a cost, however small, for the real economy. So once jobs come back and incomes stabilize (at whatever levels), you will see credit coming back. Without certainity of earnings, the credit channel goes in self-preservation mode - waiting for certainity to return. Being global, the channel can absorb far more bailout/stimulus than any single nation can provide.

The problem of global income adjustment and therefore credit offtake ability will hit us next. This is the heart of the problem. Next: we will see how we can fix this!